PENN STATE SMEAL EMBA GRADUATE TEAMS UP WITH COHORT PEERS TO LAUNCH COMPANY, ADVANCE BUILDING DECARBONIZATION.
Scott Sine was confident he had a great business idea — he just needed confirmation. Inspired by the ways the peers in his cohort engaged with and challenged their professors, the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA student realized his classmates were the perfect partners to help him solidify his plans.
One Friday night after classes were complete, Sine invited his peers to a special work session where he presented his idea. Nearly everyone showed up and offered input that helped him shape his company into what it is today — a technical and financial consulting firm at the forefront of building decarbonization efforts.
“It was the perfect environment to get initial thoughts of where the business was going, feedback on how to improve, and ideas on how to make it sharper,” Sine says. “It was such intelligent interaction, and I felt like I had the best group on the planet trying to help me make my business better.”
A year after that session, Sine launched his company, Grid + Energy Master Planning LLC (GEMM), where he has partnered with four EMBA teammates from his cohort, two Penn State online MBA students, and a residential MBA student from Smeal. The vision of the company, which guides executive decisions for commercial design from a sustainability point of view, aligns with Smeal’s focus on making business better for the community and the world.
Smeal gives you the confidence to put shape to your idea, to make it something that can actually go from a concept to an executable program,” Sine says.
With experts in sustainability, energy, grid infrastructure, and funding, GEMM helps to accelerate building decarbonization through unique technical and financial strategies.
Sine’s passion for sustainability provided the inspiration to pursue his EMBA degree. With 30 years of energy engineering under his belt, he was well-versed on the technical side of things but lacked the knowledge base to attack climate issues from a business perspective — which is what led him to enroll at Smeal at age 50.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned at Smeal was how to speak business to people and tell them how things will affect them from a business standpoint because it’s a different language than engineering,” Sine says. “If you can’t speak the language, you can’t make things happen.”
Without Smeal, Sine said he likely would have remained at his corporate job because it felt “safe.” Enrolling in the college’s EMBA program gave him the push he needed to pursue his business with a goal of changing the planet for the better.
From how a solar field affects the cash flow on a balance sheet to whether a city should invest in a high-efficiency thermal system, GEMM provides clients with advice and solutions on how to make smart, sustainable investments.
Sine says that he’s been an advocate for sustainability for as long as he can remember. He graduated from Penn State in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering and says he fell in love with the energy efficiency aspects of his curriculum.
Receiving his EMBA from Smeal allowed him to develop a knowledge base to pursue the ideas he had been brainstorming for years. An integral part of his Smeal experience — and a paramount resource in shaping his company — was the support of his cohort.
“In the Smeal EMBA, we work hard to create cohorts that are full of talented professionals from all different industries, functional roles, and backgrounds,” says Teresa Avery, managing director of the EMBA program. “Over the months of the cohort experience, those peers go from simple classmates to lifelong friends with whom you share triumphs and challenges.”
On Smeal’s South Africa global immersion trip, Sine struck up conversations with classmates who voiced their interest in his business. Leveraging the college’s vast network, he expanded his business by employing several Smeal alumni to manage the business in different regions of the U.S.
Bill Weinmann was one of Sine’s classmates who stayed behind the Friday night of his business pitch. His first impression of the idea was that it provided a unique perspective in addressing decarbonization by merging technological and financial expertise.
Weinmann began working with GEMM in May due to his ties to the utility space and is now president of GEMM’s New England division and part of GEMM’s central leadership team.
Weinmann says their EMBA degrees have served as a foundation for developing and leading the company to success, such as allowing them exposure to individuals at all levels, including the C-suite and accountants who have a strong voice in making sure decisions are made in the best interest of the business and the environment.
“Being able to introduce different financing and accounting practices which otherwise may have been overlooked by some people in this energy improvement space really sets us apart,” Weinmann says.
GEMM is beginning to work on large-scale, high-value construction portfolios as it experiences rapid growth. Sine says he sees GEMM one day becoming the “Uber of commercial and industrial energy upgrades,” hoping it will achieve the brand recognition and reputation for being the place to go for individuals looking to upgrade their commercial and industrial portfolios.
Reflecting on his Smeal experience, Sine says he’s grateful that he was able to have his business idea vetted by “some of the best minds” in business and emphasized that he continues to uphold the college’s values in his own business operations.
“The way our company is set up is modeled after Smeal because we are rooted in ethics and rooted in good businesspeople in a room together,” Sine says. “Smeal taught me that if you give people the right tools and you bring people in with the right attitude, then together you can change the world — and that’s what we are doing.”
“It was such intelligent interaction, and I felt like I had the best group on the planet trying to help me make my business better.”